Posted by: Paul | August 13, 2012

The Olympics are over. Umm…Now what?

Today, I feel adrift. I find myself wandering around the house, picking objects up at random, examining them, and putting them down again. I’m a little lost. I’m sure there was something I’m supposed to be doing. Nope, can’t think what it is. It’s probably work-related. There is a five-ring shaped hole in my life, for the Olympic Games are at an end and, like many people, they have occupied a large part of my time for the past two weeks. I am sad. I really, really miss them, like a dear friend who comes to visit after a long absence and stays too short a time. You remember, you cheer, you laugh, maybe you even cry a little. But it’s a good crying.

I’ve been fortunate to have enough of a gap in my work schedule to spend most of the past fortnight camped out in front of the TV, devouring every single second of sporting action I could lay my greedy eyeballs on. I wanted Fencing. I wanted Synchronised Diving. I wanted Archery, Triathlon, Athletics, Tae Kwon Do, Cycling. I wanted it all. And now it’s gone.

The experience was made all the sweeter by the opportunity to attend an event – my brother and I went to the opening day of the Tennis at Wimbledon, day one proper of the whole event. This, as it turned out, was not only a near-perfect day in its own right (spoiled only by the Murray brothers losing in the doubles), but the perfect primer for the whole event for me – I came home enthused, thinking this was a once in a lifetime event and I had to grab all I could of it. I felt dismayed that I had not made more of an effort in the early stages to get hold of tickets, because at this point, with events unfolding in front of my eyes and the crowds at every sport spurring our athletes on, anything would do. Most of all, I desperately wanted to be inside that stadium, to be part of that crowd. Because I was too slow, I now can’t get tickets for the Paralympics either, to keep the feeling going for as long as possible.

Instead, I have memories. Here’s a very personal run-down of my favourite moments of the last two weeks.

– Watching Kim Clijsters practice at Wimbledon just six feet away from me, on her last ever appearance there.

– Getting swept up in the ‘Team GB!’ fervour as the Murrays crashed out on Court Two in a brilliant game against Jurgen Melzer and Alexander Peya of Austria.

– Andrew Osagie’s lung-busting sprint down the home straight to qualify for the final of the Men’s 800 metres.

– Burning a T-shirt when inadvisedly trying to do the ironing while watching the Brownlee brothers storm to gold and bronze in the Men’s Triathlon. So absorbing.

– Jade Jones flinging her Tae Kwon Do headguard to the ceiling in raptures after winning gold.

– Gemma Gibbons shouting ‘I Love You Mum!’ after winning her Judo semi-final, on her way to a silver medal. She cried. I cried. YOU cried. Admit it.

There are so many more, and I’m sure the forthcoming Paralympics will lengthen the list. Perhaps you have a favourite you’d like to list in the comments box. No pressure.

And so to the closing ceremony. And how glad I am that as George Michael emerged at about 10.15 I decided I’d had enough and went to bed. I might have missed out on Eric Idle, but on the plus side I also missed the Spice Girls, Russell Brand, Kate Moss, Queen, and all the rest of it. The opening ceremony did such a good job of making me proud to be British that I’m glad I didn’t have the experience of cringing behind the sofa and being ashamed at the taking apart of that wonderful feeling, piece by piece. I know I’m not alone in this from the comments I saw on Facebook and Twitter last night. As awe-inspiring, humbling and moving as the opening ceremony was, the closing ceremony seemed purpose-built to return Britain after it’s two-week holiday on optimism, to it’s default state of cynical snarkiness.

So I’m glad I didn’t watch it all, because I don’t want things to go back to the way they were. I want to remember my Olympics for the list above. I’ve spent most of the last two weeks feeling deliriously happy. I liked it, and so today I am lost. I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time today seeking out heartstring-tugging BBC montages, and watching the ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ video on a loop. My, but Jess Ennis is cute in that. Sigh.

So thank you, Olympic Games. Thank you for defying the doubters with the opening ceremony, keeping us on tenterhooks through the tense first few days, and then blowing us away. Not just Team GB, but the whole thing – to all the athletes, officials, staff, volunteers, spectators. Thank you for reminding us why the Olympics – and Britain – are so special. Come back soon.

Let’s make a date for, say, Manchester in 2032?


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